Concerned About a Student

Counseling and Psychological Services at Mason partners with the Student Support and Advocacy Center to help address student, faculty, staff, and/or parent concerns about student behaviors that may raise safety and well-being issues.

When Should I Be Concerned About a Student?

As someone who interacts with students on a regular basis, you are in a pivotal position to recognize and intervene early when your student is in crisis.  It is important, however, to bear in mind that students respond to crises or stress in a variety of ways.  While there is no universally definitive measure to identify a student of concern, there are a few common warning signs that may indicate distress or significant emotional concern in a student:

  • Marked nervousness, agitation, or irritability
  • Inappropriately aggressive or abrasive behavior
  • Excessive procrastination and/or poorly prepared work
  • Pattern of infrequent class attendance, little or no work completed
  • Apparent depression or lack of energy
  • Marked change in personal hygiene
  • Withdrawal, indecisiveness and/or confusion
  • Comments (written or verbal) that suggest thoughts about harming oneself, or any threats to another person
  • Bizarre, alarming statements, or evidence that a student is engaging in dangerous behavior

What Can I Do?

1. Talk to the student–Expressing concern to your student is appropriate when:

  • You feel comfortable doing so
  • Your friend is not in a serious mental health crisis requiring immediate professional help to address safety concerns

If you choose to speak with the student, consider the following:

  • Identify the right time and place to avoid interruptions
  • Do NOT promise confidentiality/secrets because depending on what your student discloses you may have to alert professionals to make sure your student and others remain safe
  • Focus on the behaviors, not the person, to minimize your student’s sensitivity and defensiveness when hearing feedback about themselves.
  • Avoid judgment and keep your opinions private.  Remember, your student’s behavior reflects their struggle to cope effectively with stress or difficult emotions.
  • Listen by speaking softly, not interrupting, maintaining eye contact, reflecting back what you are hearing, clarifying, and being patient.
  • Suggest helpful resources and this website is a great place to start!
  • Reconnect and follow up

2. Consult–We recognize that helping a student in distress can be stressful and even overwhelming.  Sometimes, students may require more professional help to adequately address their serious problems.  For that reason, Mason provides a number of resources to support you and to ensure that your student receives the help they need.  Continue reading below to learn the proper procedure for reaching out to the appropriate resources for your student.

 If you feel there is immediate danger, call Mason Police promptly at either 9-1-1 (when on campus) or (703) 993-2810.

If you do not feel that your concerns rise to the level of an emergency, please contact the Student Support and Advocacy Center at (703) 993-3686  to make a referral directly.  If the situation is not an emergency, but likely needs a response today, we recommend you contact the Student Support and Advocacy Center by phone.  Any referral to them will ensure that that office is aware of the individual you are concerned about and will provide them with the information to help.  The Student Support and Advocacy Center may have had previous contact with the student about whom you are concerned and will be able to use your information to develop an informed plan of action.

CAPS  is also available to consult whenever there is a difficult situation; please take advantage of this resource by calling (703) 993-2380 during the day from 8:30AM to 5:00PM, Monday through Friday.  Counselors can address many of the questions or concerns you have about a student’s well-being, including providing information on where to obtain assistance and guidance about how to approach the student to help them get the support they need.  We will ask questions to aid in understanding what is happening.  We will then develop a strategy to determine how best to help.  We will likely ask that you also call the Student Support and Advocacy Center.

Counselors are not able to initiate contact with students, who are not active clients.  Students need to contact CAPS to make an appointment for consultation/counseling services.  If you are concerned that a student will be unable to do this, you may walk them into our office to aid them in the first step of making an appointment or call when they are with you so that they can make an appointment at that time.  If you have serious concerns about a student and do not feel they can follow through to help themselves, please contact the Student Support and Advocacy Center , as indicated above.

ProtoCall Services

If you are a faculty or staff member with concerns about a student:

Please call CAPS at 703-993-2380. Between the hours of 8:30am and 5:00pm, the CAPS office will assist you. After normal business hours and on weekends, you will be directed to “press 1” in order to connect ProtoCall with the student in need. ProtoCall can also provide guidance to faculty or staff on how to support a student in crisis.

If a student is experiencing a medical emergency or is in a life-threatening situation, please contact 911 directly, and clearly state the student’s location (on campus or off campus) for an immediate response. Mason police may also be called for assistance at 703-993-2810.